Valve have been left confused and unsure what to do recently when a surge in positive review bombing hit Assassin’s Creed: Unity. Under normal circumstances review bombs would be negative and Valve’s actions would be clear. Here, however, things are a little muddy.
Assassin’s Creed: Unity was recently given away for free by Ubisoft after the unfortunate fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. This prompted players to leave a whole bunch of positive reviews on Steam.
Valve recently put in measures to prevent negative review bombing, for example when Metro Exodus was featured as an exclusive on the Epic Games Store many folks came along to Steam and left negative reviews.
Valve discussed the issue in a recent blog post.
“Data-wise, it doesn’t quite fit the pattern of negative review bombs: in the case of AC:Unity there was a significant increase in actual players alongside the increase in reviews. That isn’t necessarily the case with a typical off-topic review bomb (but, to be clear, we have seen some negative review bombs with that characteristic).”
“Without reading the actual reviews, the data here all looks very much like a game that’s gone on sale, or received an update. It’s seen a spike in players, and as many people have come to realize, there’s a fairly good correlation between player count and user reviews – if you get more players, you’re going to get more reviews.”
“But we also went and read a large chunk of the reviews. Some reference Notre Dame or the giveaway. But most just look like standard reviews of a new player, or a player that’s returning to a product they bought a while ago. Ubisoft has released significant updates to AC:Unity since launch, and it appears that some players who bounced off it at launch have returned, and found themselves enjoying the game more.”
“So it’s not clear it’s a review bomb. It certainly doesn’t fit our original definition in the “aimed at lowering the Review Score” section, but back in 2017 the community’s terminology around “review bombs” was also focused only on concerted negative efforts. It’d be nice to change that terminology to something that doesn’t imply positive or negative, but that’s really up to the community.”
It’s an interesting topic for Valve as they weigh up how to prevent review bombing in the foreseeable future.